Meet the Modern Farmer: Gilbert Pino

Gilbert “Gilly” Pino,  photography by: Michael Lundgren

During the two decades Gilbert “Gilly” Pino spent as a railroad engineer in New Mexico, he ate the same lunch every day: a rotisserie chicken smothered in his mother’s chile sauce. “My cronies said, ‘Gilly, you’re in the wrong business,’” recalls Pino, now 68. “Eventually, I realized they were right.”

So in the 1980s, he began farming and selling peppers in Hatch, a town that’s become synonymous with chiles. Pino now grows two varieties behind his stand and sources another eight from area farms; then he dries and roasts the peppers, or turns them into salsas. But what sets Pino’s stand apart is the man himself, always offering up recipes, colorful stories, and strong opinions. (Visitors who admit to using supermarket chile powder are in for a lecture.)

Pino sells tens of thousands of pounds of chile peppers each year, and estimates that 95 percent of his business comes from repeat customers. “It’s a beautiful feeling, because I’m feeding their addiction. But it’s a good, legal addiction.”